What could be more festive than a show opening at The Wyndhams Theatre entitled Christmas with the Rat Pack? To the many in the audience this would be the perfect start to celebrating the season, and so the theatre was packed with an eclectic mix of people… including Timmy Mallet.
Productions have being touring The Rat Pack shows across the country for many years, but it has also made several trips to the West End. Clearly, the producers got a little inventive and added the word ‘Christmas’ and some snow to the poster, et viola, a new show is born! Or is it all a cheap way of cashing in?
Well, sadly I think it’s the latter, and the show was perhaps not as polished as it could/should have been. The show is very much the same as the usual tour, but has a few odd Christmas tunes thrown at it from time to time… The first appearing a good 20 minutes into the show. The band wear Santa hats and the cast make a reference to Christmas at every given opportunity, none more so than Dean Martin referring to the wobbly Christmas tree squished onto the side of the stage, peaking out from the wings.
It would be wrong to deny the skill the three vocalists have in bringing to life some of the most influential voices in music. Despite at times the show having a “tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…” feel, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr all appear on stage to the whooping delight of the audience. In fact there was more than whooping as these performers could revel in the knowledge that at the beginning of every song, and upon hitting every note, this audience, in need of recapturing days gone by, would burst out into ripples of applause and cheers.
All three acts give stellar performances and Giles Terera as Sammy Davis Jr gives a fantastic performance that really captures the entertainer who had it all, the voice, the comic timing, the dance moves. The only time the act really falters with all three is during awkwardly staged one liners and jokes in which many fall a little flat…. Quick make a reference to the Christmas tree!
Credit to the full big band line up who take pride of place on stage, who dutifully play out the hits and had me feeling nostalgic for my days in a big band, they really filled the theatre with the sound of the era and fully supported the acts on stage. Had this whole thing been on CD, and the programme reliably informs me it is, it would be a delight to listen to.
Sadly the sound on this production was a little shabby with constant missed first words and at times an uneven balance of singer vs musicians which shouldn’t really be an issue on a West End production. Similarly the lighting had many cues that were blatantly missed and the follower spots continually cut across faces, at one point the lights all flashed in a frenzy before almost blacking out, halfway through a number… Am I being too critical? Perhaps, but with a show that has run for many a year, with an evident loyal fan base it is possible to suggest that this has become a bit too complacent, knowing that singing a few well loved hits will win over a nostalgic audience looking to relive yesteryear.
With that in mind, Christmas with the Rat pack does EXACTLY what it says, Sinatra, Martin and Davis Jr on stage singing their best known, sadly for me, and coming from a jazz background… It could have been so much more but provides just enough to an audience they know will return again and again and again.
Christmas with the Rat Pack is playing at The Wyndhams Theatre until 7 January. For more information or tickets, see the Delfont Mackintosh Theatres website.